What Matters by Lisa Zaran


It would be foolish of me to assume that a woman incarcerated
has done no wrong, yet here she sits in her stripes
that swim around her forlorn frame like organza,
pleasant as the cashier at my favorite neighborhood deli.

It would seem dangerous of me to approach this situation
with blind faith based on the notion that justice may
or may not have been served, whatever the case may be,
she is in jail.

There must be a preponderance of evidence somewhere.

It would be careless of me to place all my eggs in one basket
in regards to her impunity. I see by her shattered appearance,
social injustice or heresy, she is in custody. Forced to make
retribution, whether amendable or not. Not my place to say.

This is what I tell her: if life has taught me anything worth
listening to it is hope. I know what it feels like to lose it
and I know what it feels like to see a glimmer resurface,
like a buoy to heart in the body’s cold ocean.

About the Author: Lisa Zaran

LisaZaranBioLisa Zaran is the author of eight collections of poetry including Dear Bob Dylan, If It We, The Blondes Lay Content and the sometimes girl. She is the founder and editor of Contemporary American Voices. When not writing, Zaran spends her days in Maricopa county jails assisting women with remembering their lost selves.

The Wisdom found in the Colors of Autumn by Bella Cirovic

Instrumental_Care of Creative Soul

When I have heavy thoughts on my mind, I like to go for a walk in the woods. Actually, I go for a walk in the woods everyday, but it seems to feel more therapeutic when I’ve got internal things to work out. This is easy enough because my home is surrounded by lush forest and right now, the colors are beginning to change with the turn of the seasons. It is such a beautiful time for nature lovers like myself to be outside as much as possible. I often say “nature is my church” and it really has become like a house of prayer for me in times of distress.

What I’ve been keeping an eye out for on my walks lately are messages. Maybe I’ll find a random feather or a stone on my path in the midst of a thought. What could it mean? I often wonder about that and soon let that idea drift away, keeping my found treasure as a comfort item rather than looking for a spiritual meaning in everything. Who am I kidding? It all means something!


There is one infinite kind of wisdom I have been in search of all season, and I think I have found it within the colors of autumn. I could talk about how the arrival of color coming to life in the forest has awakened something deep inside of me for days. I walk with my head held high in a state of wonder of it all.

I drink in the reds, the color of the root chakra and remember that my feet are connected to the earth and I am grounded. Red also instigates a spicy desire to tidy up my home and finish up odds and ends projects that promote a cozy nest feeling. I feel anchored by this color.

I’m blinded by the oranges that stir my creative juices and activate ideas for hot dates with my husband. Orange is my favorite color. Its energy feels warm and inviting, like a cocoon.

The yellows give me a sense of renewed energy. They remind me of citrus fruit and sunshine, infusing me with all the happy feels. If my thoughts are overwhelming, the color yellow helps lighten the load. I can’t help but smile every time I see this color.

The bit of shadow and mystery that I am so very drawn to is represented by shades of brown. I believe hugely in the idea that there cannot be light without dark in the emotional sense. Brown is that final touch of color before fading to gray then to black. It is present between the glittery leaves, a reminder that even our most solemn complexities can coexist alongside our jovial highs.

Finally, the ever present hues of green, the heart of nature and the forest. Green is a blanket of calm, a color that reminds me of where I am and how to come back to my heart center. Nature’s green is a soft landing, a place where I can lay down my armour and lean into trust.

I wonder, what does the seasonal shift look like for you and does it contribute positively to your soul nourishment?

About the Author: Bella Cirovic

Bella Cirovic BioBella Cirovic is a photographer and writer who lives with her husband and daughter in the suburbs outside of NYC. She writes on the subjects of self care, body love and nourishment, crystals, essential oils, and family life. Catch up with Bella at her blog: She Told Stories

Sunday Brunch: The Ghosts We Choose

Copyright: captblack76 / 123RF Stock Photo

Sunday Brunch With Melissa Bartell


Do you believe in ghosts?

On the surface it’s a simple question, answered with a definitive yes or no. But before you respond, take a moment to consider: what is a ghost, exactly?

Are we talking about the literal spirits of our dearly departed?

Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_captblack76'>captblack76 / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Well, if those are real it would explain why I smell my grandmother’s perfume when I’m longing for the sound of her unselfconscious singing to her African violets every morning, or feel her cool hand stroking my forehead when I’m feeling hot and sick and feverish.

(She had such elegant fingers. Mine are short and chubby.)

That kind of ghost – the gentle spirit that guides and soothes, in the form of sense memories and inner voices, that’s the kind I want to believe in.

But, if we believe in helpful, loving ghosts, aren’t we then obligated to believe in the other kind, the malicious entities that seep into the walls with every argument, and linger in the backs of our minds even when we say that we’ve given and accepted forgiveness?

Can we pick and choose which ghosts we invite into our lives, and which we banish forever, doomed to the land of unresolved issues, empty CD cases, and unmated socks?

Maybe it’s just that it’s October, and my neighborhood is slowly being decorated for harvest and for Halloween, or maybe my mind is on the spiritual and supernatural because I’m involved in an autumn/horror project, but I’ve been consideCopyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_design56'>design56 / 123RF Stock Photo</a>ring ghosts a lot lately.

Specifically, I’ve been considering the ghosts we choose.

For me, those ghosts come in the form of memories.

A bottle of Clinique make-up, left in the medicine cabinet in my guest bathroom, smells like clay, but it also smells like Halloween, 1976, when my mother costumed me as Pocahontas and used her normal color to darken my fairer skin. (Cultural appropriation wasn’t a hot topic, back then, but even if it had been, my costume was an homage, not a mockery.)

Forty years later, that scent is so closely associated with my mother that when I see her and she no longer carries that aroma (because she’s long since changed her make-up routine), I have to stop and remind myself that she’s the same woman who bore me, raised me, and whose opinion is still, always, vitally important.

I catch a many-times-rerun episode of an old television show, one where the children in the fictional family are playing with a slinky, and I’m thrown back to my high school chemistry class, and the teacher who used the helical spring toy to illustrate wave forms.

The remembered sound of the whispering of the metal coils sends me deeper into memory, to my grandfather’s basement, filled with cobwebs, clutter, and a vintage oscilloscope. I loved to talk into it and watch my recorded words become a wavy line on the tiny screen, decades before we could use our Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_waynerd'>waynerd / 123RF Stock Photo</a>smartphones or tablets to produce entire audio productions.

I see an antique hand mirror in a garage sale, or catch a whiff of homemade raisin bread, and welcomed ghosts use those overtures to visit me for a while, reminding me of special moments, and beloved people, some of whom are still with me – if separated by geography – and some who have moved on, beyond this world’s constraints of linear time.

Intellectually, of course, I know the other ghosts, the less welcome ones, still exist. Those are the ghosts that creep into our thoughts, our senses, in the bleakest moments of our lives.

I suppose, we must all, at some point, learn to vanquish them forever, but until we do, calling in the friendlier spirits, the positive memories – the ghosts we choose – keeps the darkness at bay.

Do you believe in ghosts?

I do.

About the author: Melissa A. Bartell

Melissa A. BartellMelissa is a writer, voice actor, podcaster, itinerant musician, voracious reader, and collector of hats and rescue dogs. She is the author of The Bathtub Mermaid: Tales from the Holiday Tub. You can learn more about her on her blog, or connect with her on on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

The Dream Job and Listening to My Inner Wisdom by Rochelle Bilow


All I ever wanted was to work at Bon Appétit.

It’s why, after earning my bachelor’s degree, I enrolled in culinary school. Why I worked as a line cook. Why I moved to a city that didn’t speak to my heart. All this just to get a shot at earning a spot on the magazine’s masthead.

Spoiler alert: I got the job. And in August, I walked away from it with no regrets.

After a stint in 2012 through 2013 working as a farmhand and cook in Central New York, I sold my car, traded in my overalls for pencil skirts, and made my way to NYC. I knew that to make it—to really make it—as a food writer at the national level, I had to live in the epicenter of the industry.

Besides, Bon App’s offices were located in Manhattan.

Bright-eyed and hungry, I found an apartment, settled into an interim editing job for a lifestyle website, and began strategizing. And praying.

I prayed a lot.

It was not all for naught—in early 2014, the position of staff writer for BA became available. I fired off my resume along with an eager (but not too eager, I hoped) cover letter, and prayed some more.

I got the call. I nailed the interview. I nailed the follow-up interview. And the one after that. And then, two weeks after it all started, I got another call: I got the job.

Now I don’t want to toot my own horn but then again, if you don’t toot yours, who will?

I crushed it.

For the next two and a half years, I rocked that job. I was promoted to associate editor, and then to senior associate editor.

Then I was given the keys to BA’s Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts, creating the role of social media manager for the brand. I worked hard and worked long. There wasn’t a night or weekend I didn’t spend hunched over my phone, obsessively monitoring clicks and comments from BA’s readers.

The job was my entire world, which was fitting, because—quite frankly—I didn’t have a life.


It’s not that I didn’t want to nurture friendships, try new activities, or open myself up to the potential of a romantic partner. It’s just that, for two and a half years, while I was working my dream job, I was too depressed to make the effort for a life outside of it.

I have never jived with large cities, but something about New York and me felt deeply, intrinsically rotten. For two and a half years, my spirit was slowly crushed under concrete and broken subways and expensive rent.

For the first two, I didn’t notice. I knew something felt off, but I never stopped working—never came up for air—long enough to be introspective and seek the answer as to why I felt so damn sad and hopeless all the time.

It took a birthday to force my attention to the matter. As I turned 29 (I know, I know—not exactly knocking down the door of the independent living home. But not the spry young co-ed I once was, either), it hit me like a ton of bricks: I was alone, I was unhappy, and beyond a job that impressed strangers on the internet, I didn’t have much.

I wish I could tell you that once that thought crept in, I lit a stick of incense, sat cross-legged next to a candle, and meditated on my unhappiness. That would be nice, but it’d also be a lie. I didn’t meditate on shit; I just understood. I acknowledged, deep in my gut, and with every beat of my heart, what I had known all along: This job was never sustainable, because living in New York was not. It was time to go.


The above allusion to gut and heart are not by accident. We do have the answers to the dilemmas we face.

Meditation is nice, but it’s in listening to my physical body that I find every answer I’ve ever sought. I often place a hand over my heart or on my belly to monitor how my nervous, respiratory, and digestive systems are responding to their surroundings. Try it and you’ll see: When you’re calm and content, placing that hand on your skin feels like being enveloped in a warm hug. But perform the same action in a stressful situation, and you can immediately tell that things aren’t right. Your heartbeat is irregular. Your eyes dart. Your stomach clenches. Your muscles tighten.

To understand what was happening in my soul, I had to listen to my body. Friends have asked if I found it difficult to leave my dream job. From where I stand today, in the middle of my dream life, with my hand on my heart and a grin on my face, I can say with complete honesty: It was the easiest thing I have ever done.

 About he Author: Rochelle Bilow

rochellebRochelle Bilow is a writer, yogi, and spiritual seeker based in Syracuse, New York. After leaving her job at Bon Appétit magazine, she moved back to her hometown where she works as the social media at an advertising agency. She is also the author of the romance memoir, The Call of the Farm; connect with Rochelle on Twitter and Instagram at @RochelleBilow

Elder – by Patricia Wellingham-Jones


The neighbor in his rolling chair
unbends from tugging tall weeds,
mops his forehead with a blue bandana,
flips the long gray tail of his hair.
We exchange greetings and he groans
how he hates growing old.
I refrain from that flip reply
about the alternative
and say I’m finding good things.
Sure, the body creaks
and chores take longer
but once in awhile
someone asks me a question
then really listens, wants to know.
I like passing on what I have learned,
realize people do life their own way,
and relish being an elder in the tribe
taking the long view.

About the Author: Patricia Wellingham-Jones

PatriciaWellingham-JonesPatricia Wellingham-Jones is a widely published former psychology researcher and writer/editor. She has a special interest in healing writing, with poems recently in The Widow’s Handbook (Kent State University Press). Chapbooks include Don’t Turn Away: poems about breast cancer, End-Cycle: poems about caregiving, Apple Blossoms at Eye Level, Voices on the Land and Hormone Stew.

Sunday Salon: Silences

Sunday Salon with Becca Rowan

The world is such a noisy place, isn’t it?

We’re bombarded with videos, photos, articles, in-depth news reports, texts, tweets, snap-chats…

cellphone-and-computerIt all vies for our attention round the clock: That nagging urge to “check in” on social media and see what our friends are up to; the itch to snap a photo of the leaves changing color on our favorite tree; the siren call of a friends text message. Add to that the dire and sometimes terrifying news reports of shootings and war and climate devastation, with election news like bad frosting on an overdone cake.

It’s not a pretty picture.

About a month ago, I found myself craving silence, and craving it badly. I realized I had settled into a compulsion – no, let’s call it straight, it was an addiction – to my electronic devices. I literally could not pass my phone without picking it up and scrolling through Facebook and Twitter feeds. I was completely unable to stand in line at the grocery store, wait in a waiting room, or yes, I confess, sit at a red light without whipping the phone out of my purse and looking at email. I stopped short of texting while driving, but only barely.

My real life was suffering too. I was having trouble focusing on one activity at a time, starting projects and then leaving them unfinished while I drifted off to something else (like looking at Facebook). I’d find myself always short on time, running late, rushing from here to there because I’d wasted more time than I realized on the internet. I couldn’t concentrate on whatever book I happened to be reading, having to go back and read paragraphs over several times to comprehend them. I was way behind on my Goodreads reading challenge.

Part of this behavior I blame on the grief process. Still missing my mom, I was looking for ways to combat the loneliness. Suddenly I had a lot more time on my hands, time I used to spend with her. I needed to fill it by connecting with other people and the outside world, needed to find a way to extract myself from the quicksand of mourning I felt like I was drowning in. The internet was a quick and easy distraction. It passed the time, helped me forget my loss for a while, and gave me a way of connecting with friends and family through social media.

But suddenly it just became overwhelming, the way the internet was constantly clamoring for my attention. I needed peace. I needed quiet. I tried to remember – what was life like before the internet? For the vast majority of my sixty years on earth, the concept of cyber connection would have been the stuff of a science fiction story. What did I do with myself all those years without it? I began to yearn for those simpler, quieter days, when the only electronic distractions were radios and televisions, and those with only a few channels!

Quitting the internet cold turkey was a frightening proposition, but I contemplated doing it. Still, there are so many good things about the internet, so many positive ways to benefit from it, I couldn’t bring myself to let go of all that. But limits must be enforced, and enforced strictly. I made a deal with myself, allowed myself three times a day to use the internet for social media and web surfing – at breakfast, just before dinner, and about 8:00 at night. I “unfollowed” a lot of the most prolific news and political sites.

I removed all the social media apps from my phone.


book-690763_1280The first few days were hard, but not as hard as I’d thought. I keep a book on the kitchen counter where the iPad usually sits, and when I’m tempted to go online I pick up the book and read a few pages instead. (I’m now back on track with my Goodreads challenge, too.) There’s a good audio book in my car that helps pass the driving time.  I went away on a solo vacation for a few days during the second week, and thoroughly enjoyed watching people and scenery instead of losing myself in the wilds of social media.

The constant brain frenzy has abated, there seems to be plenty of time to cook, shop, write, practice piano, read, play with the dogs.

If I haven’t totally silenced the noisy world, I’ve at least muted it to a dull manageable roar.

The internet is a marvelous tool for learning, for connecting with people, for conducting business, and it’s here to stay. But like anything else so powerful, it’s easy to abuse. Neuroscience hasn’t even scratched the surface of the effect internet use (or overuse) has on our brains. But I know from recent experience that my old brain works better with more moderate doses of cyber activity.

How about you? Do you ever feel the need to limit your internet use? How has using the internet affected other areas of your creative life?


About the Author: Becca Rowan

becca_rowan_bio_may2016Becca Rowan lives in Northville, Michigan with her husband and their two dogs. She is the author of Life in General, a book of personal and inspirational essays about the ways women navigate the passage into midlife. She is also a musician, and performs as a pianist and as a member of Classical Bells, a professional handbell ensemble. If she’s not writing or playing music you’ll likely find her out walking her dogs or curled up on the couch reading with a cup of coffee (or glass of wine) close at hand. She loves to connect with readers at her blog, or on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.